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With yet another Sudanese agreement dishonored, tensions between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, continue to rise in the country’s border states, and violence threatens to spread from South Kordofan to Blue Nile.
The framework agreement on political partnership and political and security arrangements in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states between NCP and SPLM-N was signed in Addis Ababa on June 28, mediated by the African Union High Implementation Panel, or AUHIP, that is chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki. The agreement was praised by many, including United Nations Secretary General, as a step toward mitigating the crisis in the “two areas.” This agreement contained provisions for the cessation of hostilities and a political partnership between the two parties in forming joint committees to address issues of popular consultations in both states, peaceful disarmament of former rebels and their integration into the armed forces, and for an inclusive constitutional review on the basis of “citizenship, democracy and recognition of the diversity of Sudan.”
No more than a week had passed before Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir rejected the agreement and publicly stated that there will be “no negotiations with arms carriers” and that Sudanese government will “confront those who carry arms.” This suggests there may be attempts at forcible disarmament in Blue Nile – the trigger for the violence in Kadugli in June. This may, again, have catastrophic implications on the security situation, especially in the Blue Nile state, where apart from tension no direct hostilities have been reported.
Malik Agar, SPLM-N chairman who is also the governor of the Blue Nile state told the Enough Project in Juba that there were no attempts of disarmament by SAF on the ground but he anticipates such action, saying they “do not fear SAF and have a contingency plan in place.”
Another victim of Bashir’s rejection of the Addis Ababa framework agreement is the popular consultations process, which Agar said is “not happening.” SPLM-N refuses to support the recent draft bill by Sudanese parliament, which extends the popular consultations period for an additional six months. “[T]he law itself is not the problem but the way it has been enacted,” Agar said. He went on to say that the law has lost constitutional meaning; in other words, institutions mandated by CPA to implement popular consultations process have ceased to exist, such as institution of presidency and council of states in which SPLM members no longer take part.
No doubt that SPLM-N intends to increase political pressure on Khartoum to eventually accept the Addis Ababa framework agreement. In the recent interview to Juba-based media outlet The Star, Agar said:
The framework agreement signed between the SPLM North and Sudan Government is a win-win agreement but recently the African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) has told us that the President of the Republic has reservations about it.
He also warned:
Whether the President has reservations on this agreement or not, it is an agreement we signed and he has to come back to it. If he does not come back to it then the option is war.
Malik Agar also told Enough that SPLM-N remains faithful to the vision of a New Sudan with which all Sudanese people, irrespective of their race and identity, can identify. He says SPLM-N is willing to work with all political groups in the North in achieving this goal, including the Darfur-based Justice and Equality Movement who recently claimed to have joined rebels in South Kordofan against the SAF. “Our goal is peace and we work for that, but we are ready to ally with the devil if necessary,” Agar said.
How alive the vision of the New Sudan is among the SPLM-N members is perhaps best described by the statement of Yasir Arman, the Secretary General of the SPLM-N, who told Juba-based newspapers that “the vision of the New Sudan might reunite Sudan again, just like Germany did when the former east and west parts reunited after adjusting their political systems.” The SPLM-North released a position paper last week, signed by Arman, that pledged “no compromise, no retreat” in the party’s efforts to address the marginalization of regions and groups in the Republic of Sudan.
Malik Agar said SPLM in South Sudan and SPLM-N are “genetically connected” and have special relation that was cemented by the common vision of the New Sudan. He sees many challenges in the future cooperation but believes both SPLM in South Sudan and SPLM-N will continue to follow that same vision, although in “different geographic locations and under different circumstances.”
Malik Agar called for international community and United States to formulate its stance on the situation in Sudan. He expects United Nations and international community to pressure the Sudan government to allow NGOs and humanitarian agencies to access areas in the South Kordofan in order to assist those affected by recent violence.
Tensions remain high in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Further engagement of all parties and support from international community may help reduce tensions and create environment for potentially successful negotiations between the Sudan government and SPLM-N.
Photo: Blue Nile Governor Malik Agar, with Yasir Arman in the foreground (Reuters)